Governor Whitmer commits $3 million to build 1,200-acre park in Baraga County


LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) – Outdoor recreation is a hobby that many Michigan residents can pursue.

New public funding can help improve the quality of outdoor recreation, especially for those on the Upper Peninsula. On Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved $45.6 million for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Municipalities and groups across the state could apply to the state Natural Resources Trust Fund Board for some of that money. Applications must be approved by the board of directors, the state legislature, and the governor. If they are, these groups could use those dollars to improve outdoor recreation areas or acquire land to create new ones.

“This is the final step,” said Michigan DNR deputy public information officer John Pepin. “The money will flow forward and work on these projects can begin.”

The most expensive upgrade is in Baraga County. The county is about to acquire a significant amount of land along the North Fork of the Sturgeon River. Pepin said this will help protect wolves, moose, turtles and frog species that live in the area. Pepin added that this land will also be transformed into an outdoor recreation site with a variety of different options for visitors.

“This is an acquisition of approximately $3 million for 1,200 acres that will be used for recreation,” Pepin said. “This includes fishing, hunting, boating and similar activities.”

The Baraga County Land Acquisition Project is one of 11 total outdoor recreation improvements in UP funded by the trust. Another is located in Marquette County. Here, the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority received $218,200 to build a nature walk in Negaunee.

“We are the only project in Marquette County with trust funds this year,” said Carol Fulsher, administrator of the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority. “This grant allows us to build a boardwalk in the town of Negaunee that goes into a swampy area.”

Fulsher added that this new addition to Negaunee will be ideal for cyclists, joggers and walkers.

“It takes people off the main trail into a marsh where we have lots of birds and amphibians,” Fulsher explained. “It will be a destination for Negaunee residents who just want to take a short walk and enjoy nature.”

Another trust-funded upgrade is an improvement to Douglass Houghton Falls. A 110ft waterfall in Houghton County that was purchased by the DNR from a private seller in 2018.

“It used to be on private land until MNR bought the property a few years ago,” Pepin noted. “At the time, we didn’t have the funds to develop the site to allow the public to view the falls safely. This grant will help us to be able to do that.

Improvements to bridges and footpaths will also take place in the Piers Gorge Recreation Area in Dickinson County. Pepin noted that these improvements will make whitewater rafting in the park safer.

“These improvements will make places available to make it safer to exit the river after whitewater rafting,” explained Pepin.

In December, another list of recommended projects will be reviewed by the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board and the state legislature. The Governor will then decide again whether or not to fund certain outdoor recreation improvements or acquisitions next year.

For a complete list of recipients of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund money for 2022, visit the Michigan DNR website at click here.

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